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Playful Self-Discipline: Parental Responsibilities, Good Intentions and Real Life

I’ll be honest: I have not done the dishes before going to bed every night for the past week.

In fact, I have rarely done the dishes before going to bed. Instead I stack them neatly beside the sink and do them immediately after breakfast.  This is an improvement over leaving them sitting beside the counter all day and doing the dishes before making dinner, as now the kitchen is mostly clean all day.  But I’m still waking up to dirty dishes.

If I were even more self-disciplined than I currently am, I might come downstairs at 9 or 10pm after making dinner, tidying up, bathing the girls and spending an hour or two putting them to bed and then spend another chunk of time cleaning the kitchen.

But I’m not.  And this week I realized that despite being a pretty reasonably responsible person, the last thing I want to do after I put the kids to bed is stand at the counter late at night and do the dishes.

It’s easy to feel like we’re falling short.

As a society, there are messages everywhere that say we could always be earning more money, keeping a cleaner house, shopping for better clothes or being more socially engaged.   This past week, after I announced to the world that I was going to take on the task of cleaning my kitchen late at night, I realized that defining responsibilities is very closely tied to defining priorities.  Is having a clean kitchen really a higher priority to me than having an hour or two of time to write, read and knit by myself every evening?  No way!  Those dishes don’t have a hope of winning out against quiet writing time.

I have a responsibility to take care of myself just as much as I have a responsibility to take care of our home.

Taking time for myself in the evening is more important for my mental health and overall sense of well-being and happiness than having clean counters by 11pm every night.  If I don’t have the dishes in the dishwasher before I take the girls upstairs for bed, I’m leaving them until the morning.  Because daytime is for childcare, housework and homeschooling.  Night time is for everything else.

So there, dishes.  I now feel justified in spending the past 40 minutes writing about how I am justified in writing instead of washing dishes.  Even though both sinks are full of cauldrons and mixing bowls covered with blueberry jam and bread dough, I will wake up in the morning and wash all those dishes.  Right after I eat some very tasty fresh toast with blueberry jam.

homemade bread

Now that you know more than you ever wanted to know about the state of my kitchen, share your experience with me! When do you do the dishes?

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{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Cynthia @ The Hippie Housewife August 18, 2011, 4:08 pm

    What an awesome outlook. Love it.

    I do the dishes right after supper, before I put the kids to bed. If anything is undone after I put the kids to bed, cleaning it up is the LAST thing I want to do. It waits until morning instead. I need some time to myself; it’s always short enough as it is!
    Cynthia @ The Hippie Housewife´s last blog post ..Wordless Wednesday: Summer vacation

    • michelle August 23, 2011, 12:13 am

      I’ve found that the only thing that works to keep my counters clear of dishes is doing them constantly throughout the day. That way I maximize my chances of actually getting them all in the dishwasher in the space of time between dinner and bed. I’m glad to hear you don’t wash dishes after the kids are in bed either. :)

  • Erin August 21, 2011, 8:56 pm

    I don’t do the dishes – that’s my husband’s job! The deal in our house is I do all the cooking, he does the dishes. He often leaves them until just before he goes to bed, and that drives me a little mental, but it’s his decision. I don’t actually run the dishwasher until the morning, however, as it is the Loudest Dishwasher on the Planet.
    Erin´s last blog post ..The Dog & Toddler Show resumes…

    • michelle August 23, 2011, 12:12 am

      I like that arrangement! We used to do that before Claire was born, but since we’re still nursing it’s easier if I do bedtime and Tom is often so bushed from waking up early to work that he’s off to bed at the same time. I’m the night owl and he’s the early bird…

  • Jessica August 22, 2011, 2:36 pm

    In our house one of us baths our dd and the other does the dishes and generally tidies up downstairs. That way once she’s ready for bed we can enjoy sone family time in relative calm – and sometimes I even get some knitting or crochet done.

    • michelle August 23, 2011, 12:16 am

      Divide and conquer sounds like a good plan! I’d like to start getting the girls to help out with the tidying up more as well – they’re certainly old enough to start helping pick up their own toys, but they need a lot of help still.

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